After more than 16 years in Williamsburg, bookseller Spoonbill & Sugartown is opening a second store in not-so-distant East Williamsburg. The new location, in the front half of the Montrose Avenue storefront currently used as the bookstore’s warehouse and office space, will be open Friday through Sunday, starting today.
Spoonbill co-owner Miles Bellamy said the decision to open the outpost is a response to the changes they’ve seen in the neighborhood since the shop, which specializes in used and rare books, opened in 1999. In the time they’ve been in business, Williamsburg has become the epitome of gentrification—or a “hot real estate market,” to put it more euphemistically—leading to an increase in rent, cost of living and just about everything, Bellamy said, except literacy.
“The sales increase has not been commensurate with the increase of wealthy people in the neighborhood,” Bellamy said. “I just don’t think they buy as many books as middle-class people.”
Despite the changes in Williamsburg, however, Bellamy says they are still doing “solid business.” Because of this, he and co-owner Jonas Kyle have no immediate plans to close or relocate their original Bedford Avenue location. Unlike many of the local stores on Bedford Avenue, Spoonbill faces less of a threat of being immediately priced out of its location, thanks to “an understanding” the owners have with their landlord that allows them to keep their costs down.
After their original lease was up in 2009, Bellamy explained, they opted not to sign a new formal lease, and instead continued paying month-to-month. In the neighborhood’s explosive local real estate market, this has proven to be a fortuitous decision. “Our rent has always been well below market and they never seemed to want to change it,” Bellamy said. “We didn’t want to rock the boat, knowing what’s going on with the neighborhood.”
So, for now, the Bedford Avenue location will remain open. The plan, Kyle said, is to eventually open a number of smaller shops around Brooklyn, so that, by the time holding onto Bedford Avenue becomes untenable, they will have a few stores tailored to different neighborhoods.
The new Montrose spot, first pointed out to us by English Kills Review, will experiment with this model as it transforms from what Bellamy says will be a “tighter, smaller” version of their original store into one that addresses the needs of their new neighborhood, once they have a sense of what people in the area are looking for. In addition to selling books, the owners say they also hope to eventually host live events like readings and seminars.
For now, though, the shop is simply the newest place to snag that hard-to-find text or limited-run art book without wading through sidewalks cluttered by slow-walking, well-dressed folk clutching subway maps and their hundreds of discarded pizza plates. Well, at least until those people “discover” there’s more Brooklyn to the east.
The new Spoonbill & Sugartown location is located at 99 Montrose Ave. and will be open every Friday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. You can find them online at www.spoonbillbooks.com.